By Daniel Silliman
A word of advice from the county fire chief: Get a weather radio.
"It's the best sort of protection that money can buy," said Chief Alex Cohilas. "It's the best way to get the best information about severe weather and hazards in your area."
The chief and Clayton County were given 200 weather radios on Wednesday, in a donation from Midland Radio and WSB-TV. The WR-100, All Hazards Alert Weather Radio retail for about $29 at Kroger, and can be set to go off when the National Weather Service sends out an alert for a specific area. The county is going to be distributing the radios to nursing homes, senior centers, schools, government buildings, according to County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell.
Sonna Singleton, Clayton County Commissioner for District 1, said she got a lot of questions from constituents about sirens and warning systems after a tornado struck Ellenwood in May. The most efficient warning system, though, is one that will wake up and give you good, in-depth information.
The tornado struck early in the morning, while most residents were asleep, unaware of the weather report.
"We all need to have these radios," Singleton said.
Bell said he saw the tornado was coming because he was awake, at 4:30 a.m., but when he called everyone he knew in the Ellenwood area, they were soundly sleeping.
Glenn Burns, a meteorologist with channel 2's severe weather team, said that, nationwide, tornadoes typically strike between 3 and 9 p.m. But that's not true in Atlanta, where the "vast majority occur at night or in the early morning hours," making weather alert radios, like the programmable WR-100, more crucial.
"This radio, I know, saved a lot of lives," Burns said.
The fire chief said he will partner with the water authority in a public information campaign, in the future, encouraging citizens to buy weather radios. He envisions a notice included in with the water bill.
"We want to use this donation to educate our citizens on the need for weather radios," Cohilas said. "There's no more effective way to be prepared than to have that alert go off in your home."